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Fears of nuclear data leak after university's research unit hacked

The University of Toyama's Hydrogen Isotope Research Center came under cyber-attack and information on research results related to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, as well as personal information on nearly 1,500 researchers and others, is feared to have leaked, it has been learned.

    A spokesperson for the center, known for its research on tritium that can be used as fuel for a nuclear fusion reactor, explained, "The research results have already been published and there was no sensitive research data." The research results include those on methods of disposing of contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

    According to officials of the University of Toyama, two researchers' personal computers came under attack in November 2015. A part-time researcher specializing in tritium science and technology had their computer infected with a virus after opening a file attached to an email sent in by someone under the disguise of a friend. Up until June this year, at least 1,000 compressed files were created by remote control and a total of four rounds of massive communications were carried out. The hacking came to light after an external organization alerted the university.

    The investigation by the university found that most of the 59,318 files stored in the computers had apparently leaked out. Yet the university has not been able to confirm the content of 17,612 files among all of the files in question, officials said.

    The university reported the incident to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and Toyama Prefectural Police in June this year when the data leak came to light. But the university had not informed relevant organizations about the problem until Oct. 7. Takayuki Abe, head of the Hydrogen Isotope Research Center, said, "It took time to closely examine the situation."

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